Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

Dir: Tim Burton, 1985


The show that brought man-child, Pee-Wee Herman, to prominence was never shown in the UK.

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was, by all accounts, an insane and madcap children’s show, that defied logic and didn’t adhere to the usual tropes of children’s television.

So, without warning, a thirty plus year old man, with the temperament of an hyper-active child, in an ill fitting suit, was thrust into the culture of Great Britain.

The jury’s still out on whether that was a good thing or not.

Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) has his beloved bike stolen and crosses America in search of it.

Yeah, the plot doesn’t sound anything like exciting or interesting, but it’s Herman’s child-like demeanour and excitement, that makes him so appealing.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is everything you would expect from a Tim Burton film. His first directorial effort, the movie is loaded with the off colour humour and dark undertones that would become a staple of his work.

It would be an injustice to categorise the film as children’s comedy. On the surface, it is a kids film with it’s adventure theme, and assortment of odd characters. Pee-Wee’s house, is a multitude of bright colours and zany inventions, all purposed to allow the grown up child to live an adult life without any hassle.

But, then, there is the Burton freakiness. On his journey, he meets up with an escaped murderer named Mickey. Happily accepting a lift off the felon, Pee-Wee is more than happy to dress up as a woman and pose as Mickey’s wife, to evade the cops.
Possibly the most famous and much loved scene, is Pee-Wee hitching a lift from a woman trucker name so Large Marge. Casually relating the story of an horrific crash, the trucker turns to our hero and reveals a crazy and frightening face, her eyes all widening and popping.

Very young viewers may find this scene a little upsetting, despite its ‘U’ certificate.

Looking deeply into the film, we have a possible mental disorder in Pee-Wee, transvestism and horror. But, it’s all done in so much fun, that you don’t really take any of it into consideration.

Unfortunately, like many adventure films, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure runs out of steam. To keep that level of zaniness up, is an incredibly difficult task and the well of ideas dries up.

However, the movie does redeem itself with Pee-Wee’s story being turned into a motion picture. Starring James Brolin as Pee-Wee, the bearded and rugged actor, portrays him as a James Bond-esque spy, in search of his motorbike. Causing the audience fits of hysterics, Brolin utters Pee-Wee’s catchphrase in a very masculine way; “I know you are. You said are. But, what am I?”.

Ludicrous and hilarious, more of that humour in the latter half of the film, would have guaranteed a higher score.

Nevermind, however, as what we have got is still a fun and very entertaining movie, that isn’t easily forgotten.


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